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Pediatric Narcs

When Michael Graham took his daughter to the pediatrician for a routine checkup, he wasn’t expecting that she’d be grilled about his drinking. He didn’t expect the doctor would ask his kid if he and his wife got along well, or if either of them used drugs, or of he made his daughter “feel uncomfortable”, but that’s what happened. (Note, you can read the whole article by clicking on the numbers at the bottom of the page.)

He goes on to tell the story a five year old who was asked if her parents had a gun. When she said yes the doctor grilled her for more details; he wanted to know what kinds of guns the parents had, how many they had, and how they were stored.

As if that weren’t bad enough, the doctor then called the police and reported everything he had learned.

An errant doc? A nosy exception to the rule? Nope. These are not isolated instances. They are, in fact, required.

This policy document, published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, establishes a policy requiring doctors to not only hound their young patients, but to question them about anything their parents do. The following are direct quotes from the policy paper:

“Pre-teens as well as teenagers should be interviewed privately during each office visit with the reassurance of confidentiality and a discussion of its limits. Even an apparently straightforward complaint such as headache or sore throat may be associated with an underlying substance abuse problem.”

“It may be helpful to begin with questions about the patient’s attitude toward use of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs within his or her environment (home, school, and friends) rather than probing personal beliefs or habits.”

“Inquiry regarding the extent of tobacco, alcohol, or other drug use by peers and family should be a part of the routine history of every child who is seen in the pediatrician’s office.”

What happens when the kids get something wrong? When I was growing up my father had a beer with every evening meal. One beer, never two, and I never saw him drunk, or even tipsy. Yet, if I were asked, as a five year old kid, about Dad’s drinking I probably would have said “Dad drinks beer every day.” Of course, back then, pediatricians weren’t acting as the eyes and ears of Big Brother.

While it is reasonable for a doctor to make further inquiries if there are signs of abuse or he suspects something is wrong, this kind of fishing is unconscionable. Since this is official policy, parents should never leave their kids alone with their pediatrician.

Isn’t that sick?

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1 Comment(s)

  1. There is a big difference between what is right and what is legal. Unfortunately, more and more often the right thing to do is not the legal thing to do. I am sure that if you are reading this that you teach your kids to think critically; too bad this doctor and the AAP can’t do the same thing.

    Don Venardos | Oct 25, 2007 | Reply

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